To Bee Or Not To Bee

That is the question many bee keepers are asking as they continue to lose up to a third of their hives every winter.

The list of bee-destroying culprits is hotly debated, from pesticides, to cell towers, to monocultures, parasites and diseases. One thing remains clear: our pollinators are dying at a time when we need them the most.

Proactively addressing the problem, in 2019 the state of Minnesota passed legislation to pay homeowners to create more bee-friendly lawns to help these essential insects. The plan is specifically aimed at saving the Rusty Patch Bumblebee; a plump, fuzzy breed on the endangered species list that is making its last stand in the Upper Midwest. The idea is to alter the trend of traditional suburban lawns, which tend to be toxic for pollinators and the ecosystem in general.

Minnesota’s initiative seeks to diversify the plant life that people have around their homes, in hopes of creating an environment where bees can thrive.

Homeowners are encouraged to plant wildflowers, clover and native grasses in an effort to slow the collapse of local bee populations.

Bee-friendly plants such as creeping thyme, self-heal and Dutch white clover are also recommended. The state will reimburse up to 75% of a homeowner’s costs and up to 90% in areas with a “high potential” to support endangered bees.

James Wolfin, a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab and Turfgrass Science Lab, hopes that this measure will create a new trend. “I’d like to see communities and neighborhoods as a whole change their idea of what a perfect lawn looks like.”

Such small changes can add up quickly, especially on a larger state-wide scale. Feeding the bees feeds us as well, and it can start easily, with one lawn at a time.